Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Personal best

"Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it's all about."
--PattiSue Plumer, U.S. Olympian

We runners are truly a different breed of athletes. We pay to punish ourselves and get satisfaction from defeating ourselves.

My last tempo run over 10k in the hilly terrain of my home city assured me that I have a 45-minute 10k race effort in me. Pushing myself to lactate threshold pace and holding it over the distance, I put in negative splits for a solid progression run that ended with a 48-minute clocking. I was targetting to break 50 minutes for the distance and I did just that. I was happy. That means I could possibly make, maybe even break 45 minutes over 10k in Davao City.

I got myself registered 4 days before the event, missing out on a beautiful black and green race singlet. Supplies have already run out by the time I had myself listed for the race. I didn't have any problem with that. I seldom wear those race singlets anyway, just keeping them stacked in a closet as souvenirs. The finisher's certificate the organizers are gicing out post-race would be good enough for me.

By 4:30 in the morning, race participants were already filling up the starting area at the Holiday Gym and Spa car park. Among those in the crowd were friends from Davao Runners. In a corner was Davao's barefoot running legend Manuel Vismanos with his unshod proteges - his younger brother Boni, Aldo Pecson, Jonifer Bagayo. All four of them from Toril were doing the 10K run barefoot.

I decided to place myself forward on the starting line. I have always been a slow starter, and I thought this would give me a better lead going into the first two or three kilometers. As usual there was the series of passes following the rush after the gun - I pass other runners, other runners pass me.

It is always a bit frustrating, having other runners rush past you even though you feel like you were already giving it your all. It brings a tinge of self-doubt, shakes your confidence a little. But racing experience tells you you will pass them back sooner or later, that all you have to do is patiently maintain your pace and follow your race strategy. Patience and perseverance, that is what distance running is all about. Indeed before the turnaround point, my patience paid.

Going into the second half of my 10k run, I exchanged pace and lead with a curly-haired female runner. Diminutive as she was, Yen Kimbrough is one strong lady, and I didn't have doubts she would be among the top finishers in the women's race. She surged every now and then, running past me until I caught up and kept pace with her again. I kept my pace steady. I have never been one who did surges when racing. I found them energy-sapping.

We met 'Nong Maning Vismanos and his barefoot gang, joined by running writer-photographer Joanna Christina Lizares Co and a couple of other Davao Runners, making their way towards the 10k turnaround. Way ahead of us were the race leaders, the local elite of Davao running, and a few other younger and faster runners. Two of them were ahead of me on the road, and I tried as much as I can to stay apace and go for a fast finish, maybe even pass them approaching the finish line. It didn't happen.

Still I can't be happier crossing the line and getting the word from the race timekeepers. My official time was 43:25. I finished in 14th place. My own Timex Ironman Triathlon chronograph read 44:22.41. Either way, I improved on my previous 10k best of 47:08.38 (Merco 63rd Anniversary Run 10k, Davao, 25 Oct 2009). Nothing could have been better for me that day.

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